Last month, Pope Francis went to the Holy Land to visit historic and religious sites in both Israel and in the Palestinian territories. The choice of airports and site visits were analyzed and discussed by the media, many controversial. The picture that I saw in the headlines at the time of the visit was of the Pope leaning, perhaps praying at the wall, not the Western Wall but the barrier that separates Israeli territory from Palestinian territory. The picture sent a strong message about what separates these two peoples.
This Pope has shown he will lead by example and we are getting used to expect the unexpected. Rather than leave the message of separation after the latest rounds of Middle East peace talks had been suspended, the Pope invited the leaders, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, to join him in prayer the following month. They met this past Sunday.
In his brilliance, the Pope focused on what we all share as peoples. We share our religious practices, our prayers for peace and our values of compassion and love. This Pope understands how to bring people together and engage our hearts before we engage in our differences. These pictures tell a very different story.
The Argentine pontiff later told Abbas and Peres that “peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare.” He defined courage as “the willingness to say ‘yes’ to encounter and ‘no’ to conflict.”